Health & Nutrition | Dogs | January 5, 2017

Getting Your Dog in Shape for the Great Outdoors

Dog running

As the days are now getting longer and warmer, we know that you and your pet are probably feeling the pull of the great outdoors, so what better time for getting your dog in shape both mentally and physically for all the beautiful weather that’s just around the corner?

Starting slow

You would never start your own physical training regimen by running a marathon. And there are so many great ways you can get your dog started on the path to getting back into shape after the long, dark days of winter. Walking is great for both of you! If your dog has been sedentary all winter, begin with short distances and walk at a brisk pace. Start slow & gradually increase your distance over the course of a few weeks and in no time at all you will both be ready for more rigorous activity.

But what if the weather outside is soggy and wet?

Do you have a treadmill for your own use? Why not train your pet to use it as well? Yes, seriously! In the cold months before spring a treadmill can be a good start on a fitness program for both you and your pet, but once those warmer, sunnier days arrive, there is no substitute for going outside for that all-important fresh air and Vitamin D! There are many great videos which show you how to acclimatize your dog to a treadmill. We have met many dogs who, once trained, hop on their owner’s treadmill and wait for it to be turned on.

TIP: Be sure to have proper warm up and cool down periods on the treadmill just like you would for any exercise – and remember, treadmills are not a permanent substitute for walking or exercising outside.

Play your favourite games

When you can’t be outside, play games indoors with your dog to keep him active and keep his mind sharp. What was your favourite game as a kid? Maybe hide-and-seek? Or what about catch? These games can be so much fun for your pet (and you!) to play indoors when the weather is not sunny and warm. If you’re looking to build muscle strength, try having your dog sit and then offer him a treat high enough above his head that he has to rise from his sit to stand on his hind legs. You can then have him return to a sit or a ‘beg’ position and repeat. Several repeats of this each day will help to build strength and muscle tone for both of you.

Another way to do some conditioning and burn off some steam is to play fetch on your carpeted stairs. As long as your dog is not a young puppy and is healthy and not prone to hip problems, you can throw a ball or a toy to the top of the stairs and have him retrieve it for you. Just be careful no to overdo stair exercise.

Outside the home

There are lots of other ways to occupy your pup both physically and mentally while still remaining indoors during bad weather. Why not sign up for an obedience class? Or learn something new like nosework? Any activity involving a dog’s nose is a very intense activity for them.

Many cities and towns now boast indoor swimming pools for dogs. Although they are often used for therapy, they also provide the best possible exercise for your dog, so it’s worth checking out. If the rates are a little high, ask the pool owner if you can share your time with another doggy friend to share the cost.

You can take your dog with you on many of your outings. Home Improvement stores or pet supply stores are options to get your pup out of the house and engaged without getting bored. If you have to leave him at home, you can try leaving him with a treat dispensing toy to occupy his brain and nose.

There are lots of ways to get ready for more outdoor activity if you think about the options that are available. By the time the warmer weather hits, you will both be ready to hit the great outdoors!